Comments on Shannon’s post reminded me of a news report I’d heard this morning.
The College Board is trying to put a pretty face on it, but the fact remains: “For the class of 2006, overall combined scores for mathematics and critical reading dropped by seven points from last year,” although they finish the sentence with “which represents less than 1 percentage point.” If you want to see the scores over a long period (which doesn’t make us boomers look all that bad), look at Table 2. Various other tables give other data, including a graph that shows the improvement in math scores over the last decade – though certainly not back to 1967 levels – as well as those in critical thinking.
SAT scores don’t tell us much or even the most important things: as Newman says, “Knowledge is one thing, virtue is another; good sense is not conscience, refinement is not humility, nor is largeness and justness of view faith.” SAT scores don’t even predict maturity or perseverence, both far more important in scholarship. Some of the brightest minds I’ve been around have dispersed much of their energy because so much interested them and so little engaged them. But, generally, they were entertaining – because tests like the SAT do register the amount of spare data & ability to connect dots rattling about in their heads.
Most of us have found that these scores reflect something important about a student’s preparation. And the steady downward trend isn’t a ringing endorsement of the various educational fads dominating post-1967 teaching. Some complain the tests test test-taking – well, maybe. If they do, however, they are testing skills of logic & common sense, an ability to approach problems when that answers don’t readily come to mind & develop a sharpened ability to consider & reject possibilities. That is not a bad skill, either, though it demands a logical mode of thinking that hasn’t always been encouraged in educational thinking.